Game One Thoughts

Kurt —  May 5, 2009

Aaron Brooks of the Houston Rockets
Prior to the start of the playoffs, we said that the second round would be the toughest round for the Lakers, that Houston (and Portland) were the biggest matchup and deepest teams LA would face. Denver may have something to say about that logic now (they are playing interior defense for the first time in recent memory) but the Rockets gave us a reminder they are a good team.

This loss was all about the Lakers offense — or lack thereof — and the Rockets defense.

The Rockets defense is good and one result of that is players to do things a little more hurried — you know the rotation is coming, so you rush the shot just a little. Then miss. Even when open. Combine that with a little rust from a week off and you get 2 for 18 from three and Gasol missing the 15-footer that is usually automatic for him. Then when other players starts missing, Kobe starts taking on more shots (as he is hot) and suddenly the 2006 Lakers are on the floor.

But, as Darius explains, the Rockets took the Lakers out of how they wanted to execute on offense:

For all the talk that Gasol is our biggest advantage we seemed to feel that he’s best served shooting mid-range jumpers rather than going into the post against Scola. Phil was dead on when he commented that “I don’t like the way we’re using Gasol”. I know he didn’t have his touch tonight and if he makes some of those FT line jumpers we have a different game, but when those shots weren’t falling we did not adjust. I mean, what’s the point of starting two seven footers if we don’t go into the post where we have a size advantage at PF? Both Bynum and Pau settled for jumper after jumper and while Andrew made some, Pau did not. Our entire plan must change if we are to win games and ultimately the series. Ultimately, some of those post Iso’s that Bynum got against Yao early in the game need to go to Pau on Scola. Simple and plain.

Reed was right from the comments before the series — we have a point guard problem in this series. Here is what he wrote in an email before the series:

I don’t like the PG matchup for us. Brooks will run circles around Fisher; ditto Lowry. I think Houston sizably wins that matchup. I love what we got from Brown last series but am not ready to expect that kind of consistent production. And I’ve totally given up on Farmar. The thought of him defending either Brooks or Lowry terrifies me (and it’s not as if they are Deron and Chris Paul).

Brooks ran circles around Fisher and there were terrible interior rotations behind him, and the result was layups. And a problem in that Brooks is now the guy who can create his own shot when the clock is running down (something Lakers fans thought the Rockets would struggle with).

The answer, amazingly, may be more Jordan Farmar. Despite his slump of the last month or so, he showed some quickness on defense and a little hunger in his few minutes. Brooks did not drive on him (although he may have been tired from running by Fisher all night). And he hit the three. Just as ShanWOW had before, Farmar earned a little more run with his performance in game one.

The Lakers did not get to the line a lot, but remember that is the goal of the Rockets defense — contest but don’t foul. And the Lakers — Kobe in particular — were willing to take those jumpers rather than attack for much of the game. (To be fair, Kobe was draining them for a while.) But the Lakers need to attack (which goes back to Darius’ point earlier).

Also, 93 possessions in that game. Too slow. Too grinding. Pick it up.

Another quick note — I’m happy that was not a serious knee injury with Yao.

Finally. I’ll let Darius talk about our X-Factor:

I was pretty disappointed with LO tonight (and being one of his bigger advocates, that’s saying something, I think). He was awful at the FT line and didn’t have any rhythm on his jumper (surprise, surprise to few, but he was making that shot against the Jazz). He was scrappy on the offensive glass with four on that end, but when he only gets 5(!) total (so only one defensive rebound!! in 32 minutes!!!), he’s not working hard enough. Plus, if he’s not rebounding on our defensive glass, he can’t push the pace or start the break from the glass which is a major advantage he can give us. So, I was upset with my guy. I hope he’ll do better in upcoming games, but Adelman was extremely smart in putting Ron on him and, as we saw when Boston put Posey on LO, Lamar struggles when SF’s who can stay with him on the perimeter and body him when he cuts guard him. He needs to go to the post more in those instances, but we’ll see if he adjusts his game.

Kurt

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99 responses to Game One Thoughts

  1. Putting Artest on Lamar means that Scola is on Ariza, which means Ariza needs to take him to the hoop or make a play off the dribble for others.

  2. Ariza doesn’t have the ball handling skills

  3. As I said in the other thread, as frustrating as the offense was, I think defense is just as important. The Lakers need to make sure that Brooks and Artest do not combine for 40 again, and they need to even up the free throw count by getting to the rack. Houston is good enough to disrupt the flow sometimes–the Lakers will not be able to dictate the whole game.

    So, adjust on Brooks and make him shoot more jumpers, and try to attack the rim more, as part of increasing the pace, as Kurt said.

    Also, I think Phil needs to consider giving Bynum and Farmar more minutes, in spite of Farmar’s problems and Bynum’s injury. Those guys match up better with the Rockets than some of the vets do.

  4. 1, I’m not so sure I like the idea of Ariza dribbling. We’ve seen that when he dribbles, he turns the ball over a lot. Whether this has to do with his small hands or lack of experience, I don’t know, but less Ariza dribbling the better IMO.

    I think we’re hedging too hard against Brooks on the PNR. Our bigs still think they’re going against Deron Williams, who’s really good at turning the corner and finishing at the hoop. We saw two or three times Brooks split the double when we hedged too hard and gave away the lane to the paint. I think if the bigs play off Brooks a little more, they’ll still be able to contest his shots (because he’s short) and still give our PG’s the time to recover around the pick.

    Adelman coached a great game, putting Brooks and Lowry on at the same time and matching up Artest with Odom. When Brooks and Lowry come in, I think we should counter with two PG’s, because Sasha and Ariza simply aren’t fast enough to keep up with the two Rocket PG’s.

    Gasol is not very good when he gets the ball out of position. A lot of people are clawing for us to feed Gasol more, but the reason why he’s so efficient is because the Lakers always get him the ball in good spots. When he’s forced out into uncomfortable shots, he becomes much less efficient, 3-11 in non-crunch-time scores. Both Bynum and Gasol need to work for better position against Yao, and especially the midget trio of Scola, Hayes, and Landry.

    We’ll see how good the Rockets are when we play them in Houston. Even though the Rockets used home court to beat the TrailBlazers, both the first two games were very close and required the Blazers choking away the game for the Rockets to win.

  5. For the record, Brooks had a higher eFG% on jumpers (47.6%) than Kobe did this year (46.1%). It’s a little bit of apples and oranges, but Brooks can hit the J. Not at the percentage he makes layups, however.

  6. One of the very bad things for the Lakers last night was the game gave the Rockets confidence.
    They stared the Lakers down in the 4Q,w/stood a Kobe run,kept their poise and won.
    Now the Rockets are perfectly capable of a huge clunker of a game next time out,but they now know they can not only hang w/the Lakers,but beat them.

  7. Omg, and I completely forgot the Phil Jackson went with Josh Powell for a good 5 minutes where he was completely ineffective. Putting in Josh Powell plays completely into the Rockets hands, because they’re undersized already and get much better rebounding position than our guys. We need to get more offensive rebounds, more than 12 on 49 missed shots.

  8. I knew about Brooks’ numbers, but it was a good reminder. He is not Rajon Rondo on the J. The problem is that the Lakers made him look like Tony Parker.

    I agree about Powell in this series, although I like him as a role player. I think Andrew needs to be getting 25-30 MPG if at all possible.

  9. Disappointing game; not only the outcome but how we got there. It’s to be expected after a long layoff that your shot may not be there like normal, that’s why it’s so important to do the other things like working harder and smarter to get better shots.

    I completely agree with Darius, in that I understand wanting to get Bynum involved early (after his poor play in Utah) but not at the expense of getting Pau involved. If the Rockets are going to guard Pau with Scola, pound the ball into Pau at the post! (when Bynum and Pau are in at the same time pound the ball to whomever Yao is NOT guarding). Relentlessly exploit your matchup advantages!

    It would be nice to also run some P&R with whomever Yao is guarding. Make Yao move, plus getting him away from the basket is always a plus.

    As for the PG situation, I too, think that Farmar needs to get some more play. More importantly our interior rotations will have to be better as there is simply no way we’ll be able to stay in front of Brooks.

    Sometimes your shot isn’t there, which is why it’s so important to always play *smart* and *hard*. The Lakers didn’t do either last night. Most disappointing.

  10. I told my wife, “Jordan Farmar must have had an affair with Jeannie Buss or something, because Phil Jackson is simply refusing to play him, even though he’s the only guy who can defend Brooks.”

    Farmar should be out there defending Brooks. Just like Brown was the right choice to defend the strength of D-Will, Farmar is the guy to defend against the speed of Brooks.

    And when they have the Brooks/Lowry combo? Farmar/Fisher and Farmar/Brown can both do a credible job. I almost like Farmar/Brown better, thanks to the athletic matchup.

  11. Would still like to see Yao Ming get more touches, the Lakers (or anyone else for that matter) have nobody who can guard him one on one. Also glad to see Brent Barry get some burn – he’s exactly the kind of pure shooter we need when Yao is being doubled. Loved the acquisition of Lowry during the season – he gives us toughness and strength at the point guard spot, which Brooks can’t really provide.

  12. I expect us to win the series and don’t want to harp on a down note, but the PG play really needs to be addressed. We were 26th in the league in PG PER differential during the season (our PG PER minus opponents PG PER), and our production at the position has gotten substantially worse over the second half of the season. At some point Phil may need to make some hard calls about what/who isn’t working and change things up. (I’m thinking of Fisher, God love him. At some point in the series TNT will again flash the Fisher vs. Brooks/Lowry playoff experience chart, but Van Gundy will pause and respond, “Well, maybe this just means that Fisher is getting really really old.”)

    I thought that Brown was much more effective last night (Farmar’s 2 minutes weren’t enough to let us know how he’ll do in the matchups). In addition to controlling Brooks penetration, we need our PGs to make plays. Fisher is steady and controlled, but when facing a tough defense like Houston (or like Boston last year), we need help making things happen, and Fish can’t make things happen. When Brown came in the pace of the game changed, we had a few fast breaks, he caused a few turnovers on defense, etc. I don’t expect him to have a huge effect on the game, but I thought he infused the team with another level of energy, which we so badly needed.

    I remain of the opinion that Farmar could not defend Brooks, but I could be wrong. I’ve never seen him stay in front of fast guards on defense before, even if he does show great speed on offense. I just don’t think he has great defensive discipline or instincts. He can make plays on offense though, so I’d happily see him out there for longer stretches to get us running, get into the paint, etc.

    If we approach Houston’s defense like we did Boston’s — slowing it down, lots of isolation play on the wing from Kobe, lots of predictable pick and rolls — then we’ll be frustrated all series. We need players like Kobe, Ariza, Brown, Farmar to use their energy and athleticism to make plays.

  13. I am not sure about Farmar guarding Brooks, either, but he could obviously help with the pace issue. The Lakers need to get the game in transition more. Now, of course, you need stops to do that, and maybe Farmar can’t help do that, but it is worth a try. Like I said, I think Phil needs to get Farmar and Bynum some burn, even though that will come with some mistakes.

  14. I agree that we need to run some more pick and roll with whoever yao is guarding. I seem to remember adelman pulling yao for chuck hayes for defensive purposes specifically for guarding the pick and roll. The more we get yao away from the basket, the better it is for our offense as a whole. And it was good to see farmar have some productive minutes for once. Yes, it was in very limited minutes, but I didn’t cringe for the first time in a while.

  15. Kobe is a complicated subject. Yes, he had a hot streak in the second half that kept us in the game, but you could as easily say he shot the Lakers out of the game as well. If he is not well, perhaps he might be more judicial on shot selection?

    As I pointed out yesterday, Farmar has done well against Brooks in the past. What would they have lost by having Farmar in the game rather than Fisher?

    More troubling is Phil’s substitution patterns. Bynum gets it going in the second quarter so Phil takes him out. Farmar hits a three pointer so Phil takes him out. He played too many people and it seemed pretty random at times. Didn’t see much of a game plan, to be honest.

  16. I don’t know. When Bynum was in, the offense seemed stagnant and the spacing was off. And he kept trying to make jumpshots. I think it is more important to get Gasol more involved, and I think Pau works much better with Odom on the floor that with Drew.

  17. Sorry for the double post.

    I cannot blame Phil for this. He was trying to find a lineup that would bring some flow to the offense and energy on defense.

    Kobe was taking some “bad” shots, I will agree, but I feel it came after he was passing the ball and no one was making their shots. That’s when he went into “bad” Kobe mode.

  18. Bynum finally made some plays and got a hop in his step. You need to run with that a bit. Why take someone out when they finally bring some energy to the floor?

  19. I know this is silly, but I got only 4 hours of sleep last night. The travails of being a fan! It’s not as if I don’t have plenty other stuff going on in my life to lose sleep over, but there it is.

    Makes me think of someone like Kobe, who works his tails off. What’s it like for him to lose a game like this?

    Sorry for veering off the technical. Back to our regular programming…

  20. I think the first step in getting a W in game 2 is to recognize how good this Rockets team is defensively and offensively. We also need to understand that the Rockets squad we faced 4 times this year is not the Rockets squad we are watching now in playoffs (and neither is our team).

    With that in mind, I think Phil needs to recognize a few things quickly:

    (1) Fish is getting burned badly. While there will be instances where we need his leadership on the floor, I’m thinking we may be better served with a little more Farmar/ShamWow on the floor. Fish’s production this offseason is steadily declining and he may be better suited as a “back-up starter” (i.e. have him start, but then pull him out and give the bulk of the minutes to ShamWow/Farnar).

    (2) We need to throw the Rockets a curve ball. I don’t know much about BBall strategy, but I could see that the Rockets were well-studied on our lineup options and effectively countered us. In short, its time for Phil to pull a rabbit out of the hat to throw Adelman out of his game. Call me crazy, but why not try a line up of Lamar-Bynum-Gasol-Kobe and Shamwow/Sasha/Trevor when the Rocket’s go big? I know this is an unproven lineup, but it may be worth a shot.

    (3) We need Luke back. Admit it. Luke does wonders for our passing game and may be just what we need to improve our ball movement.

  21. inwit – The problem I saw with Bynum was that he seemed a non-factor on defense. Someone on the prior post nailed it when they called him “Yao’s broken toy.” He was also a little slow and lethargic, which only contributes to slowing the pace on offense/defense – and that favored the Rockets.

  22. I don’t know, I thought Bynum did a good job on Yao. Obviously Pau was able to use his agility to deflect the post feed away, but Yao also had some easy spins on Pau. I seem to remember Yao throwing up several missed contested turnarounds when Bynum was guarding him, which is really what you want when you’re defending him.

  23. As much as I want to see Bynum succeed. We can’t afford for the team to start off slow with him starting. I think he needs to come off the bench. He can be more effective there than he will be earning two cheap and early fouls every game. Our offense needs to be firing on all cylinders right now, and it isn’t with Bynum out there.

    Here are a bunch of links:

    http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2009/5/5/865574/opening-credits-5-5-09

  24. Too bad there’s only one day of practice because there are alot of adjustments the Lakers have to make to create easier situations in game 2. First of all a strategy that depends on Yao wearing down is not going to work. I don’t know what kind of ginseng he’s been taking but the Yao of yesterday does not drain that 20 footer at the end of the game and 40 minutes of court time.

    Some of the Lakers problems were temporary. Lack of shooting touch, slow on rotations, etc… these will naturally be improved. But some problems are structural. These problems need a change in strategy.

    1. Aaron Brooks. The problem he posed was different to the problems D-Will and even to some extent, Chris Paul poses. He broke Fisher down without needing a screenroll. The Lakers have gotten better at defending the screenroll with Pau or Lamar showing hard and recovering to his man. But Brooks just blew by Fisher, never giving the help defense the chance to affect him. Brooks is similar to Parker, a shoot-first point guard who can get into the lane and finish. The Lakers should consider putting Ariza on Brooks who can leave space to prevent penetration and still bother his shot. This would leave Kobe on Artest (Ariza did not slow Artest at all) and create a matchup problem with Fish on Battier but I’d rather have Battier taking up Yao’s low post possessions instead of taking the corner 3. I’m not convinced that Farmar can stay infront of Brooks as he’s not demonstrated this ability against any other point guard in the league wheras Fish is strong enough to hold his position against Battier.

    2. On offense the Lakers simply have to do better executing 2 simple plays. High screenroll with Kobe and Pau and mid-post with Kobe. The Rockets are doing a good job defending the screenroll by having Battier cheat off Kobe toward the right side of the court. Ideally Kobe would have the ball on the strongside (left side of the court) and Pau would flash up to screen his man, resulting in either in a Kobe dribble drive down the right side of the court (the new strong side) or being double -teamed which can create the highly effective hockey pass to Odom on the high post and Pau diving to the hole. But the Rockets anticipate this screenroll and when Pau flashes up to set the pick, Battier is infront of Kobe and already shading to the weakside. Thus when Pau sets the screen, the pick is a backside pick and the only avenue left for Kobe is to double back toward the strongside (left side) where the defenders funnel him toward the baseline. This defense is exactly out of the Michael Lewis article. To combat Battier’s stance, the Lakers have to change the initiator of the triangle sequence. You know the sequence that Fisher runs where he dumps the ball off to the high post, cuts down and then doubles back to receive the hand-off (yes picture it, Fisher usually takes a 20 foot jump shot off of this sequence). Instead of Fish, this has to be Kobe. If Kobe initiates this sequence on the left side of the floor, he can receive the hand-off from Pau who also picks off a trailing Battier. The screenroll now is dangerous, with either Kobe one-on-one with a showing Yao or being doubled by a trailing Battier. The Rockets now are rotating furiously to cope and shooters are open everywhere on the floor. I’m disappointed that the coaches do not have a solution for this defense because this is what the Rockets have run each and every game since last year.

    Also, Kobe must simply work harder to establish the mid-post position on the right side of the court. You know the plethora of moves he has from this position. We saw this once last night with Kobe getting a good shot in the lane.

    On a macro note, some times it is not your night. The 50/50 plays went the Rocket’s way. Someone posted about the team rebounds being an indicator. There were many sequences where the Rockets made shots with the clock winding down. And still the Lakers had chances. I expect the Lakers to win the next game as Kobe should come out very agressive continue his forays into the lane that he started late in the 4th quarter. But the win would be easier if Phil addresses the structural problems and not just count on more effort. I don’t know whether Phil’s adjustments will have any similarity to the ones being suggested by FBG readers but it will be interesting to see what they are going to be.

  25. Farmar cannot guard anyone… he is way too small. Fisher is way to slow. Shannon Brown is by far the Lakers best defender but why does he only play 12 min a game? He also is shooting the ball better then Fisher for the last month. I would like you guys to write an entire article explaining why Phil is afraid to turn the page on Fisher’s career. All he has done this entire year is make average PG’s look like all stars. Thanks.

  26. We keep on talking about losing team rebounds and scooping up 50/50 balls as if it’s completely out of our control and an indicator that it just wasn’t our night, but those are all things that are still under our control. This isn’t football where there is some element of good fortune in having a fumbled ball bounce back to you instead of your opponent. Rather, in basketball, these loose balls can be recovered through anticipation and hustle. As someone said before, when your shot isn’t falling, playing smarter / harder is what keeps you in the game – and from looking at the team rebs / 50/50 ball indicator, we didn’t do that.

  27. Good win for the Rockets and I’m glad that Yao is alright, I’d rather face the Rockets with him than without to be honest. Losing game 1 is a good thing because hopefully this will send a message that we can’t come out and expect to turn on the proverbial switch.

    I do have on question though, I thought Mbenga did a good job on Yao, if anything put him on Yao to wear him down, be physical, you have 6 fouls for a reason, let him use them? Just a thought instead of putting Gasol on Yao or while Gasol/Bynum needs rest. Any thoughts?

  28. The Lakers played right into the hands of the Rockets last night. Exposed were all the weaknesses we have worked so hard to overcome from last year’s collapse in Boston. Not settling for jumpers. Motion offense to keep the defense honest. Utilizing our size in the post. In short, making use of our athleticism and speed. Instead we played lazy basketball, hoping that our jump shots would fall and lead us to the victory.

    Houston understands how to maintain the pace and style of play. We must use our size to our advantage and punish them by continually pounding the ball into the post. Make Brooks a defensive liability. Turn Scola into a flopper. And attack Yao to fatigue and make him surrender. Battier is a better perimeter defender than in the post. And with Kobe’s passing ability, cutters such as LO and Trevor with have easy paths to the basket.

  29. Best thing I’ve read on game one: No shock it is from Kevin of Clipper Blog fame:

    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-40-15/Houston-Gets-Defensive.html

  30. Laker Fan 010 May 5, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Kurt, how difficult do you think it will be for Lakers to win the series. In addition, how confident are you that LA will win? Everyone is saying LA will still win but it seems that Houston really caused trouble last night and are only gonna get better at home. What can LA do to beat them? In addition, do you think the 4 regular season games were a true indicator of where the teams stand?

  31. Great posts, but I have to agree with robinred. It’s defense that wins championships. Farmar is not going to shut down Brooks, but if he stays with him, it eliminates the easy basket and forces the kick out (and who is a consistent outside shooter for that team? They have good shooters, but I don’t know how many want to regularly take the shot with 5 seconds on the shot clock).

    Adelman knows all too well PJ’s style and weaknesses. He will exploit the PG situation.

    We didn’t play that badly, but we should not have allowed the lead to get to 9 in the 4th. There were some shots by Pau and others that were in and out, but better defense would have kept the pressure on the Rockets. I just don’t see a guy on the Rockets that is consistently clutch.

    Game 2 is a big game. The Lakers have make the Rockets feel like the first win was a fluke. You want to try to chip away at any momentum the Rockets grabbed. It may not be a lot, but a close game will only reinforce the idea that the Rockets can stay with the Lakers.

    Adelman’s a good coach, but he gets flustered and it rubs off on his teams – not like Don Neslon – but any little bit counts.

  32. What was upsetting to me about Bynum’s play last night (and really since he’s come back from his injury) is his complete unwillingness to pass. He forces shots nearly every time he touches the ball. Ever since he’s come back, it’s as though he’s been trying to forcibly reintegrate himself into the offense in an effort to prove that he’s “back” or something. Extremely frustrating to watch.

  33. A few things on the game last night. The Lakers missed alot of wide open threes that they have been making all year. I thought in the fourth when they were trying to close the gap, there were a few possesions where Kobe got in the lane and found Ariza or Fish for pretty open threes that they just missed. Another point to make, is what Darius hit on. We were all talking about our advantage with Pau over Scola, and how Drews job will be for defense and rebounding. Then right out of the gate, they start going to a cold Bynum against Yao.
    Bottom line, I’m not panicing. The Lakers played about as poorly as I’ve seen them all year, and they have played so much better against Houston as well.

  34. 30. I’m very confident the Lakers will still win. I think I and a lot of other Lakers fans — and maybe the team — thought this was going to be easier than it will be. I think we forgot just how good Houston can be, and that they are improving their weak areas.

    But the Lakers can play much better on offense and that will have a cascading effect on the defense. Also, something I don’t get into as much but is big, is that this Lakers team needs to be slapped a little to get its focus and motivation back. They can coast, then when things go bad find it hard to flip the switch mid-game. I think we will see a different game two Lakers.

    But, the Rockets are confident now, and six or seven games seems likely.

  35. The Lakers have some notable flaws, and some notable strengths. Usually the strengths are greater. However, last night Houston took advantage of the Lakers flaws, and the Lakers strengths weren’t. The rest of the teams in the playoffs will be able to do that, too. If that happens four times in a series, the Lakers are eliminated. If it doesn’t, the Lakers win the title.

  36. This is a great blog. Very knowledgeable posters and commenters. I’m a Rockets fan and all of our blogs are saturated with idiot commenters.

    I have to agree with Bill Bridges above, Yao’s conditioning is much improved. Obviously wearing him down isn’t completely ineffective, but it can’t be the cornerstone of your strategy. Finding a way to contain Brooks is absolutely crucial for the Lakers, and the Ariza idea is intriguing, with Kobe on Artest. Giving Kobe a tough defensive assignment may make him more disciplined on offense as well.

    Also, I fully expect the Lakers to start fronting Yao a little more, and working a little harder to prevent him from getting the ball. This will create more opportunities for Scola, but I think Phil can live with that a lot more easily than with Yao going off for 28 again.

  37. I just had a small epiphany. Tell me what you think. At first I thought, well if we’re having so much trouble with brooks, why don’t we put kobe on him. It’s not like guarding shane battier requires optimus prime and an entire squad of autobots. Fisher and brown might be able to put up enough resistance. but then I thought, well maybe kobe’llget too tired. so, what about putting ariza on brooks? He doesn’t have the speed to guard brooks but no one does. So ariza can use his height advantage to play off and close on jumpers and the bigs won’t have to overreact when brooks does get in close because ariza can still disturb his shots with length. fisher or shannon brown might be able to guard battier well enough that it could work.

    does that seem crazy?

    matchups when lakers are on defense would be like this (primary lineups):

    brooks – ariza
    artest – bryant
    battier – fisher
    scola – gasol/odom
    yao – bynum/gasol

    Ariza might be able to slow brooks down. i think fisher and brown can stick with battier (although he’s savvy enough to take them to the block recognizing the mismatch). if bynum gets into trouble again, then we’ll see odom and gasol line up like usual. Regardless, yao still be the clear weakpoint of the defense. However, the goal is to limit the mismach we are facing at PG even if we give up some advantage at SF.

    some of the off sequence rotations might look like this….

    brooks/lowry – ariza/farmar/brown
    lowry/von wafer – brown/farmar/kobe
    artest/battier – kobe/ariza
    hayes – odom/gasol
    landry – gasol/odom

    it’s not terribly different than what we’re doing now but it does have some pitfalls. Where we had one large mismatch before in brooks, we now have a definite mismatch in battier and the potential that brooks still has his way with ariza. I think it’s worth a shot early in game 2 to see how brooks would respond to a talented, athletic, and much bigger defender like ariza.

  38. whoops. my bad. Bill Bridges already proposed the idea of Ariza on brooks. obviously he was much more cogent on the explanation of it.

  39. We can talk all we want about the Lakers flaws. The fact is that they have had them all year, and look at their record (inluding against the Rockets). Besides, every team in the league has flaws, and the Lakers happen to have the least of any of them. Their strengths far outweigh their flaws. If they play and execute like they have been doing all year, they will be fine. I know that the playoffs are a different animal, but if you look at most of their losses this season, you will see that in most games they either played no defense or were just out-played entirely. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t see either of those things last night. I saw a rusty team play aginst a better defensive team then they’ve faced in 3 weeks, and miss a ton of shots that they usually make, especially at home.

  40. The Rockets did two things that they couldn’t do all year against us:

    1.) They kept Yao on the floor.
    2.) Continued to hit big shots in crunch time.

    I’ll credit them for getting it done, but I think the defense they played is getting just a bit overrated.

    We all know we can (and will) play better than that. I don’t think anyone here doubts that. I do doubt that Houston ca play better than they did last night. And I’m not saying that to disrespect them, but we still had a shot to seize control of that game, but continued to miss open shots.

    When the Rockets went on the 9-0 run after we took the lead at 77-76, we repeatedly missed wide open shots, and gave the Rockets extra possession with tick-tack fouls.

    In summary, I think that’s the Rockets best punch against us. But we have to throw ours. Repeatedly.

  41. We’re not doubling Yao effectively. Yao actually getting off his downward, right-handed hook shot is inexcusable, because he exposes the ball so much when he does it. As we saw several times, our smalls can get in and get easy steals from Yao’s dribble. We need to double right when he puts the ball on the floor, then recover when he picks up his dribble. Yao Ming getting off 17 shots in unacceptable; he’s too efficient of a scorer to allow him that many attempts.

    That being said, I’d like to see more fight from our front-line. They’re getting outrebounded by an undersized frontline, when they should be able to get better position against Yao and out-jump the shorter Scola, Hayes, and Landry. It really seems like our guys are content to give up position to the Rockets and try to jump for the ball, rather than working to get good position.

  42. Let’s hope they got that crappy play off their chests last night. An abysmal game overall, pretty much up and down the roster. Our guys couldn’t hit the ocean if they fell out of the boat last night, and acted like the basketball had some strange new coating on it that made it impossible to handle, pass, or catch cleanly. Kobe was terrible, briefly got hot, and then was terrible again. Pau and LO were worse, because they never got it going at all. Fisher was, well, Fisher. Sasha’s main contribution was giving Battier an elbow to the noggin. Ariza played like the guy who couldn’t crack the Knicks or Magic rotation. ShanWOW was more like ShanMeh. Bynum was the lone bright spot, if only to show that he hadn’t regressed to a high school JV level.

    On the other end, Yao was superb, Artest and Brooks were unconscious, and Scola, Landry and Hayes did a nice job neutralizing our vaunted frontcourt.

    Losing by 30 at home is rough, but when you play terribly and the other team plays well, that’s what happens.

    Oh… wait… we only lost by 8? Hmm.

  43. Farmar needs to get a lot more run. I understand sitting him out against the Jazz since he’s been struggling and last year D-Will flat out embarrassed him. However, watching Fish try to guard Brooks is just plain sad. Farmar can stay with him and he seems to have a little fire back.
    He did play heavy minutes for the Western Conference Champs last year in case everyone forgot.

  44. Kurt: Also, something I don’t get into as much but is big, is that this Lakers team needs to be slapped a little to get its focus and motivation back.

    ***

    Well, it all goes together–the visceral part of the game and the Xs and Os. This team is very good but not truly dominant. Yet, sometimes they play as though they think are truly dominant, which leads to mediocre effort on defense–the most tangible sign of an overconfident team. Then when they get in trouble they tighten up, and count too much on Kobe.

  45. I actually don’t think we played that poorly on defense. We had a couple screw ups, particularly letting Brooks get layups but every point guard gets layups against us (Deron Williams got to the basket whenever he wanted to).

    I think Bynum picking up 2 dumb fools early completely turned the game around. Pau Gasol is not very effective against Yao Ming. All he does is try to steal the entry pass. Bynum allows us to contest Yao without doubling. He has to stay out of foul trouble.

    Bottom line we just didn’t hit shots. People said Kobe took bad shots but I didn’t see it like that at all. Just about every shot he took I expected to go in. There were a couple shots he had to get off because the shot clock was going down, but other than that I was ok with his shot selection.

    #20 We absolutely do not miss Luke Walton. He can’t guard anyone. We put him on power forwards and they put him in the post and score easily on him. We put him on small forwards and they take him outside and blow right past him. I don’t miss Luke. Everyone always says he’s such a smart player but I think he does more harm than good.

    Overall I think we’ll get it together and really it just comes down to us making up shots. If we can’t make open threes, then we may be in some trouble.

  46. To those saying Kobe was terrible last night, and complaining about his “ugly” 14-31 night, he shot 45.2% last night, compared to his 46.7% season average. I know True Shooting % was probably quite a bit lower since he didn’t hit his 3s, but considering he got to the rim a lot less often than usual, you’d expect his percentage to be a bit worse. He didn’t match his typical 4th quarter performance against the Rockets from this season, but how many times is he really going to do that?

    Unless the Lakers can figure out a way to open lanes for Kobe to penetrate, they can’t count on any more from him. They might get it, but they can’t count on it. That’s why improving their defense is so critical.

  47. At least I don’t see may comments about LO on this blog. All season long LO has been a 1for2 freethrow person. That continued last night. At the end of a close game I really don’t want him in because of this continuing habit. He will be the person Houston will foul when we run the offense through his hands.

    Last night we didn’t really try to run the triangle, period. We looked like Atlanta, just passing the ball around the horn, hoping to get a good shot. We expected talent to win out and didn’t apply the effort and IQ necessary to win. We got what we deserved.

    We also emboldened the Rockets. Let’s hope this doesn’t continue. I fear we will win on WED with a very close game and this will further embolden Houston going home.

    No excuses – just win convincingly.

  48. I’m not convinced that the Rockets played the best game they are capable of. After all the Lakers outrebounded them, had more assists, more steals, more blocks, and less turnovers.

    Some random numbers:

    Offensively the Rockets were only 1.6 points over their season average. They only shot the three ball at 28% where they are a 38% team on the season. (Not quite the dip the Lakers saw, but a dip none-the-less.)

    Pace-wise the Lakers actually got off three more shots than their season average, so it’s not like the Rockets were slowing the game way down. It was about normal factoring in turnovers and free throws.

    One big factor for me, is free throws. The Lakers only shot 3% off their average, but they shot 12 for 19 from the line whereas they average about 19-25. Less attempts and a 12% dip in success rate- whereas the Rockets shot 6 more than average and hit 6 more than average.

    Kobe actualy shot his season percentage for the game- but got a couple less trips to the line and only hit 60%.

    The Rockets established the aggressive style of defense they will play early on- so don’t look for the Lakers to get bailed out with a lot of touch calls. They need to be extra aggressive at getting to the basket to get free throws.

    Based on some of these numbers- I wouldn’t get super confident that what we saw was a really bad Laker performance against a great Rocket’s performance- and only an 8 point loss.
    More like a subpar Lakers performance against a slightly above average Rockets’ one. Could be a tight series.

  49. Sorry. Fifth paragraph- what I meant was the Lakers only shot 3% off their field goal average- but their true shooting percentage was much worse than that due to the low 3 pt. and freebies success rate.

  50. Rudy – I still think Walton would be useful in creating passing opportunities.

  51. The same thing that applied before Game 1 applies before Game 2: if the Lakers play smart basketball, they’ll win. If they don’t…

    People here are freaking out about Aaron Brooks like he’s the new Chris Paul or Pistol Pete. We’re talking about Aaron Brooks, folks… If Denver can play smart D and make the real Chris Paul a non-factor, the Lakers can stop Brooks.

    I’d really like to see him attacked on the offensive end; make Adelman pay for leaving him on the floor. But again, that would require the Lakers to play an intelligent game, and lately those have been few and far between.

    Pau is not being well utilized, and while Bynum had some touches Monday, I’d prefer to see both of those two setting up on the low box more often than we’ve seen. Andrew hit some 15-footers, but that’s not the shot we need him taking, nor is that shot going to get Yao in foul trouble.

    In the four seconds he wasn’t blabbering about himself last night, Collins did make one good point when he noted that Phil mentioned that the Lakers aren’t playing the triangle as often as before. Yes, they should look to run, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play a good half-court set when the D does get back to stop the run.

    They have so many weapons to exploit, yet too often it’s a Kobe jumper with Battier in his jersey. I just don’t get it, and I expect better from the coaching staff.

    They have the talent to win it all. But I’ve yet to see the execution on a consistent basis, and that scares me this late in the season.

  52. Is another way to deal with the Artest/Odom match-up (which also reminded me of the problems Lamar had with Posey in last year’s finals) to go to a small line-up with Sasha replacing Ariza? There’s no way Scola can defend Sasha so this would force Houston to waste one of thier great wing defenders on Sasha and Sasha can guard Battier on the other end. I love Ariza’s game but wonder if this wrinkle might free up Lamar a little. Thoughts?

  53. From J.A. Adande’s article on the 4 letter:

    ‘”We’ve been — well, me and Derek [Fisher] have been — in these situations before, where you drop a Game 1,” Bryant said.

    He didn’t mean simply losing Game 1. He meant losing Game 1 and coming back to win the series. Huge difference.’

    Clearly the Rockets are improved, but I am just not worried yet. The sky is not falling. There are things that need work (all intelligently discussed in this forum), particularly the way that everyone needs to find their role & execute it consistently in each series. I KNOW this team has the talent (and in KB, Phil & Fish’s case, a grip of experience) to come out on top.

  54. Let’s be realistic. The Rockets match up well with the Lakers. All of the regular season games were close until the Lakers got hot and started hitting 3 pointers at phenomenal rates in the fourth quarters. So that 4-0 regular season record is a deceiving.

    The Rockets enjoy clear advantages at PG and C. The Lakers have the advantage at SG and PF. SF is probably a wash. As for the bench, outside of Odom who can the Lakers count on? So I am not sure how the experts can say that they Lakers are clearly more talented than the Rockets.

    This first game has exposed the Lakers’ main flaw, lack of perimeter defense which usually results in fouls for the Laker’s big men.

    As for Kobe’s off night, he shot 14-31 for 31 points, had 8 rebounds and only 2 turnovers. If the Lakers had won people would have been talking about what a great game he had even though he was sick. In actuality, Kobe had an above average game and the Lakers still lost. Pau and Odom had slightly below average games but they were not bad by any means.

    Clealy, the Lakers need someone else besides the big three to step up if they want to win this series.

  55. As a Laker’s fan I have to admit I’m a little nervous about this series (and our chances of winning the title). Our major flaw (besides turning every opposing point guard into Tony Parker) is that we don’t really have a reliable 3 point shooter. Fisher and Sasha’s shot’s have deserted them, and I don’t expect them to get it back this year, so who is going to hit that corner three we need when they collapse on Kobe. Ariza did it against Utah, but is he going to do that the rest of the playoffs? I still like our chances but it’s not going to be an easy path to the finals like it was last year…

  56. Those of you who have the game still on DVR, it’s worth watching the game from the middle of the third quarter on to see how aaron brooks was effective. here’s my take:

    -brooks should almost always be the one initating the offense for houston. When battier or artest were the starting point, the rockets were much less successful. his penetration opened up shooters and caused the lakers defense to collapse or get disorganized.
    -a lot of harping on fisher has gone on and while he didn’t lock down brooks, the fault wasn’t entirely his. The lakers scheme wasn’t played to perfection. Fisher funneled brooks toward his big men. Gasol in particular was too slow to contain brooks long enough for Fisher to get back in the play.
    -Odom did an okay job keeping brooks away from the basket but brooks made good decisions when this happened and usually found an open man.
    -brooks isn’t as dangeous as Mr. Chris Paul but some of the same principles need to apply. Lakers will need to figure out a way to funnel him toward much less dangerous areas (i.e. not right under the bucket) and try and take away his passing lanes.
    -some of the lessons of defending steve nash might also apply. counterintuitively, it might be better to force brooks to be MORE of a scorer. He is looking to pass most of the time and if you can take away his options, he might force up some contested shots inside where his lack of height is a disadvantage.
    -in summary, the indecision on how to guard brooks was detrimental. I think the Lakers need to decide whether they want to take away brooks completely (hard traps and committed help) or take away his passing options and hope that their length will be enough to bother his shots when he gets inside.

    -also, i don’t know squat about jack. maybe someone else has better ideas. (hopefully that person’s name is kurt rambis)

  57. I like the idea of Ariza on Brooks, but I think Fish on Battier will hurt more than people believe. Battier has very quiet skills, you don’t think of him as a post-up player, and yet he’s very capable of taking any mismatch that’s presented to him and exploiting it. Can’t leave Fish on an island there, but maybe with some help that strategy would work.

    For what it’s worth, I think Brooks has the speed to blow by Ariza too. Ariza is no magic potion. ShanWOW had one great defensive sequence where his feet were active (more so than usual) and he actually kept Brooks from getting past the 3-point line. His energy and intensity might remain our best option.

    Artest against Odom is a smart move on Adelman’s part. We need to figure out a way to exploit our mismatch as a result. Ariza absolutely cannot attack Scola off the dribble. It’s a strange thought, but what about running Ariza off curls and moving without the ball? Scola’s too wide and slow to chase Ariza around the court. That said, it’s an iffy idea at best. Moving without the ball isn’t Trevor’s game and I doubt he can pull it out all of a sudden in the semifinals. We just have to find a way to punish the Artest-Odom matchup (and no, Odom cannot get Artest into foul trouble).

  58. Is “sucks” really that bad of a word? One author has it written as “bleeps” in an article. There’s been an uproar over the classiness of the chant, even though many arenas do it. Bit odd, because I never really considered it a lot worse than “stinks.”

    Yes, I am trying to distract myself from the fact that we are in a 0-1 hole.

  59. I think we need to start fronting Yao. Portland was able to take him out of his game by doing so, and he doesn’t catch the entry pass with his back turned well. Gasol should do this, as Bynum is prone to picking up quick fouls (and he has a decent chance of defending Yao from behind), and he was fairly good at swatting the entry pass away or the ball away from Yao when he was dribbling. As for the conditioning issue, people need to remember that Yao lit up Portland in their first game and steadily became a non-factor for the rest of the series. One part is his conditioning, and the other part was the change in tactics.

    Now, I’m not saying we give Scola open looks — we don’t need the hard double unless Yao actually catches the ball in the post — but Yao needs to be taken out of their offense somehow because he opens things up for everyone else. Without him, Houston has to start making jumpers, and practically everyone on Houston save Wafer and a controlled Artest can’t generate their own shot (or Brooks when he burns Fisher). On another note, Fisher really, really can’t deal with fast guards. He can funnel them into the defense, but I concur with whoever said to put Ariza on Brooks. Kobe guarding Artest removes Houston’s biggest wild card (take away a few Artest threes, especially the nutty glass bounce and we win) and Ariza should do a better job on Brooks than any of our point guards.

    Aside from that, we simply missed shots. Honestly, a few Fisher’s, Ariza’s, or Sasha’s open threes go down and we would be taking about how we nabbed a close victory. Gasol also isn’t going to miss all those 15 foot jumpers either. Houston needed a dismal shooting night from us (huge kudos to their defense in general though) and Artest, Brooks, and Yao lighting it up to get a victory.

    I predict a much more determined effort tomorrow. What worries me the most is the point guard situation though. Fisher’s minutes might have to be decreased in favor of Brown simply because Fisher can’t deal with penetrating point guards that get some speed. This has been a problem for a long while, but it’s been particularly painful recently. Billups or Kidd will be a more conventional matchup in the next round should we get there, but I think Phil needs to start giving the lion share of the minutes to Brown.

  60. Game one loss is a blessing in disguise…..We played bad they played good and the game was close. This is the wake up call and challenge the Lakers need.
    Check out this blog….Great points made

    http://kaliphornya.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/this-is-the-houston-rockets-with-your-wakeup-call/

  61. j.d. Hastings May 5, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    The Lakers will eithe rplay better or lose. That’s my prediction.

    Otherwise, I was most annoyed by the Staples crowd. It was pathetic. Boston’s fans were loud and excited when their team scored while down 28. Laker fans could barely be moved at all except to chant the ever classy “Houston Sucks” while the Lakers were down 5 points in the first. Seriously? That’s all they have to offer?

    Or how about when they booed the replay of Battier’s headwound? No foul was called so why spattering of boos?

    Just a bad show all around. How about just cheering with the game. Occasional chants of defense and cacophanous cheers for more than just momentum shots?

  62. Well, the way I see it is that tomorrows game is a MUST win for the Lakers, we cannot go to Houston down 2, the pressure is now on us. I remember early in the year, I believe it was Kurt who said that Houston would be our biggest threat to the Finals. ShanWOW should just be playing many more minutes, he is our best PG defender in this series against Brooks.

  63. The team that is our biggest threat to the Finals is perhaps the least obvious, yet most telling: ourselves. I have yet to see this Laker team play up to its potential except during the 6-game road trip where we beat Cleveland In Cleveland and Boston in Boston without Andrew Bynum. The Rockets, the Nuggets, the Mavs, the Blazers, whomever, are no where near the adversary that we ourselves are. We’re consistently beating ourselves by playing away from our advantages, getting out-worked on hustle plays, and making mental errors. While I disagree with a lot of what Charles Barkley says, I do think he has a point in that this Laker team has yet to show its championship mettle. This team doesn’t seem like it’s on a mission to win; it’s more like they’re just going on a ride and taking it casually. We see Houston, Boston, and Cleveland all playing up to their potential, and I believe that ours is above theirs; We just simply haven’t put it together that we’re in this to dominate, not just to scrape along and hope Kobe pulls the win out of his butt in the 4th. Hopefully this Houston loss makes the young Lakers lose their sense of invincibility and forces them to work for this championship, as opposed to hitching a ride on Kobe’s coat-tails.

  64. It would be a big mistake to put Ariza on Brooks.
    Brooks isn’t the one passing in to Yao,it’s Battier or Artest. Remove Ariza and entry passes becomes much easier.
    Having Ariza guarding Brooks near 3pt line removes his ability to help on the interior,get rebounds and jump likely passing lanes.
    Having Kobe guard Artest for 30+minutes is going to wear out Kobe,as Ron is just as physical on offense as he is on defense.

    As was pointed out earlier,the Houston offense is not as effective when Ron brings up the ball. So it might be far better to pressure Brooks in the backcourt and force him to give it up before he crosses half-court. Use your 3 PGs to pressure all 94 feet. Then accept Brooks is going to penetrate,but he’s not going for 30 or so,so accept the pain and play everyone else tough,don’t distort the Laker D to stop Brooks and open up holes elsewhere.

  65. Nobody expected the Rockets to roll over. Nobody expected the Lakers to play perfect basketball. So it seems like we shouldn’t be surprised we lost. Hopefully the message will get through. I’d rather us be tested early rather than later.

    In other news. Kenyon Martin called himself out.

    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-40-21/The-Reformation-of-an-Angry-Nugget.html

  66. I know its tempting to try and switch things up after a tough loss, but I think the Lakers defensive strategy was sound for the most part. They just didn’t execute properly. I thought Gasol had a terrible game defensively. Fish funneled Brooks to him a few times and Pau let him break containment. Also, Brooks was able to quick shoot him and get a couple layups by Pau that should’ve been swatted away. And will Sasha ever learn to stop reaching. His constant fouling bailed the Rockets out of a couple of tough possessions and put them in the bonus way to early. Bynum also has to play smarter on defense.

    Offensively Houston should never get away with Chuck Hayes guarding Pau. If Pau can’t back him down or score over him then put Bynum in and he’ll take advantage of it. The Lakers need to go at Hayes hard and send a message. Also, when Shaq was struggling in times past, Phil said it was because they didn’t have him moving enough. How bout setting some picks (a la Utah) and hitting our bigs on the move, instead of always trying to do a straight post up.

    Not really worried. Lakers simply have the better team and I haven’t seen PJ lose a playoff series when he has the better team…the 2004 Pistons were vastly underrated and Lakers had no chance once Malone got injured.

  67. rofl, everyone in Cleveland just got rickroll’d.

  68. What was the biggest coaching mistake last night?
    Not giving Kobe rest to start Q4? I think PJ did the same thing in game 3 at Utah with similar results. Not playing Farmer after he hit big 3 to end Q3? Especially when Adelman went small by giving Wafer a quick hook in favor of Brooks in the 4th.
    Everyone on Lakers had a poor game 1 including Phil. Give Adelman credit I thought he coached a solid game.

  69. While I understand the concept of “coasting”, a “wake up call”, or a “lack of focus”, I really don’t buy it when it comes to this Lakers team. Sure, we’ve all seen us buckle down on defense, close out hard, and make the oppositions offense look beaten down from taking long jumpers and suffering shot clock violations. We’ve all seen us perform on both ends of the floor at a level that rivals some of the best ball we’ve ever seen. To me though, we are who we are. That’s not to sound defeatist, but it’s meant to highlight the fact that we have flaws and when those flaws include players who go cold from the outside and players that don’t have the strongest defensive instincts, we will have trouble holding leads or shutting teams down when a key stop would be nice. The other side of that coin are our strengths: our high talent level, our athleticism, and having Kobe (who can reach nova status), which means we can also bury teams. But in the end, execution is king in this game and in the last game Houston had it and we did not. So, in that vein, here are some keys that I hope to see in Game 2:

    *First I agree with Bill Bridges. We can make simple adjustments with the Kobe/Gasol P&R and run it from different spots on the floor rather than always initiating from the top of the key. So, not only can we run this action off the handoff from the pinch post, but we could also run the P&R from the corner where the ball goes to the sideline with the top guard clearing off the post man’s shoulder followed by the big man coming to screen the player that received the pass in the corner. Kobe can be the man that ends up in the corner by being the player that brings the ball up, passes to a wing/guard that is at the hash mark, then cutting to the sideline to form our Triangle on the strong side, and then receiving the pass. It’s a set we rarely run because we usually initiate our offense with a direct feed to the post, but we can use this action against Houston and it will accomplish two things: 1) it will draw Yao/Scola out to the deep wing 2) it will give Kobe a driving lane to either the middle of the court or to the baseline (depending on how Houston defends this action). Either way, it gets Kobe in attack mode and I’d like to see more of that.

    *I’ve been saying this since the Utah series (really for longer than that), but I want to see crisper offense. It was said above that we don’t miss Luke Walton. That statement was predicated on Luke’s lack of defense. However, Luke is a bigger body that has done decently against SF’s of Artest’s ilk (Pierce for one) and is a guy that can at least body up guys and doesn’t fall easily for change of pace players that aren’t lightning fast. But really, I’m talking offense here. Luke is a player that screens hard, cuts hard, and seals players at every opportunity. He’s also a keen passer that gets players like Gasol and Bynum shots closer to the basket because he understands interior passing better than any player on our team (I mean that too). So, I’d like to see Luke back because he can help in establishing crisper offense, but if he’s not back I want to see it from the players that do play. Screen hard, cut hard, seal your man, move the ball – run the offense.

    *This has been said by many, but get Pau the ball on the block against Scola. Put him in the hub of the Triangle and run all the cuts/actions off of him. Let him back down Scola and shoot his hook over the top. Make Houston help on him from the weakside (with guards and with Yao) to open up shooters and to allow Bynum to crash the offensive glass. Take some of the burden off of Kobe. Because while I don’t doubt we’ll see a better game from #24, I also think he could use a helping hand (or eight).

    *Defensively, play smarter in your individual match up. Play players tendencies. I mentioned earlier that Artest (like Peja, Antoine Walker, and so many others) likes to go left to shoot his jumper and go right to get to the basket. If Battier puts the ball on the floor, it’s to get all the way to the rim or to find a better angle to pass. Lowry wants to push pace and get all the way to the basket in early offense. Brooks wants to penetrate and go all the way to the basket to finish right at the rim or pass to the spot up shooter and if he’s playing P&R he’ll look to shoot his jumper when the screen is in two point territory but will look to turn the corner when the screen is beyond the three point line. Etc, etc for the other Rockets players. Basically, play your man in the manner that the scouting report says are his strengths and tendencies. They’re doing it to us, I know we can do it to them.

    Understand that I expect us to play better. Before the series started I thought we’d win in six games and still think that will be the case. However, it won’t happen just because we say “this will be a wake up call” or a loss like the one in Game 1 will “get this team to focus”. It will happen because the matchup advantages that we have will be exploited and we’ll play to our stengths; we’ll make adjustments. We have it in us, but we have to work.

  70. i am reallllly excited about tomorrow!

    I dont know why but when I watch the denver nuggets I kind of wish the Lakers had that same energy that they showed before . it seems like the nuggets are going through a HUGE peak right now and it’s really fun basketball, kind’ve like the Lakers during that 6 game road trip. I reallly hope we win by 20 or so to show the Rockets who’s boss

  71. Maybe I’m off suggesting this, but it occurs to me our fatal flaw might come down to a slightly foggy team identity. I know that sounds a bit strange, but…

    The word ‘tough’ gets mistakenly thrown around. What I think is a legitimate criticism is that this team often (not always) struggles with scrappy, fundamental defensive teams dating back to last year (a la Boston or Houston) that clog passing lanes and “dirty up” the flow of our offense.

    Why is that? We keep coming back to this “complacency” or “lack of a killer instinct.” Is it really that simple? Do people think that after the humiliation in last year’s Finals, after repeatedly blowing large leads this season, that it’s as simple as players treating lesser opponents with an irreverence, and not playing aggressively? I used to think so, but I think it runs deeper than that.

    We always hear about what a great offensive team we are, but why do good defensive teams disrupt our offensive flow?
    It’s not a perfect comparison, but in the 3-peat days, we stuck to our triangle in clutch situations (aside from Kobe). We had a system that the veteran players trusted, and we executed without hesitation.

    Fast forward to today’s Lakers team. Phil has wisely adapted this team to a different NBA, moving further away from the triangle than he ever has. However, the downside of this is that it’s difficult to pin down one exact system to run in crunch time, when we need perfect execution. We claim to still be a triangle team, and yet we’ve incorporated PnRs, fastbreak opportunities, etc. When a strong defensive team disrupts the passing lanes, we often seem unsure which offensive identity to use, and our play usually dissolves into isos or perhaps a PnR or two. (In addition, some of the younger players don’t run the triangle well enough against a superb defensive team, often forcing poor post entry passes and letting the ball stick on one side of the floor).

    All a long-winded way of saying that I don’t our problems can simply be written off as a lack of hunger or complacency. Does Lebron enter the locker room literally frothing at the mouth, while Ariza naps and ignores pre-game instructions? Our real problem is poor execution in the face of strong defense, not a lack of effort or focus. And I believe part of that poor execution (which is so well concealed against lesser defensive teams) comes from a less sharply defined offensive identity than we’ve had in the past.

  72. A little off topic, but it has to be said.

    How does LeBron go through so many games without a single personal foul? Seriously, does he play the most perfect defense on the planet?

    Crazy.

  73. Lakernation: Relax. All is not very good, but well enough. There is very little to worry about. Sometimes they need a wake-up call to get focused and motivated.

    Lakers had a terrible offensive night and Houston did not break away until the very last few minutes.

    Lakers will prevail in 6.

  74. “I like turtles” May 5, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Snoopy … your rant is flawed. The Lakers don’t suffer from a lack of offensive identity. They were fantastic against the NBA elite (except Orlando).

    The problem is as simple as matchups. Certain teams can expose the Lakers b/c of matchup problems. Particularly when Kobe’s counterpart can help nullify his effectiveness (i.e. Pierce, Roy, Artest) and the opposition simultaneously causes other matchup problems (KG/Ray, Aldridge, and now Yao/Brooks).

  75. RAW – I agree – watching Denver is pretty good stuff. They are playing some good basketball and lots of energy, heart, hustle….they don’t have as much talent as the Lakers but could take them out. These Lakers if they don’t win the ring this season blow this team up…they’ll never win it with the same personnel and coach.

  76. I thought the Utah loss and the fact that the Jazz to came back in every game was the wake up call.

    I still think we will win this series and go on to win it all, but does this team have somewhat of a leadership issue? Why have we not put together 4 straight good quarters yet. 6 games in and we are still looking for it. That’s not to say it can’t be found or we have to win every game on the way to the title, just look at the road the Celtics took last year. I’d feel more comfortable if we didn’t need a “wake up call” every series.

  77. The former comment 75 is gone, as is a response to it (which was reasonable, I sometimes do remove responses to a gone comment).

    Traffic here, and comments obviously, are up here with the playoffs. And really, the tone has been better than I remember last year being at this point. But I’m in a rather hyper-vigilant mode with comments lately (plus I’ve just been in a bad mood since the loss, and I can’t take it out on my kids). Just a heads up, it’s nothing personal, I really don’t look at the names.

  78. If anyone read my earlier post that was a response to an anonymous post, I deleted mine after Kurt or one of the other moderators deleted his so then mine no longer made sense. Sorry…

  79. Is Jordan Farmar fine now health-wise? Wasn’t he a little hurt before the playoffs?

  80. I’ve gotta say that the loss really has me bummed out, man. There’s no feeling worse than trailing in a playoff series when you’re chasing a championship.

    This being said, I picked this to be a five game series before the thing began, and I’m not so sure that won’t happen. I do expect all of the games to be pretty tightly contested, but the Lake show will be able to make some adjustments. Maybe that means playing Jordan on Brooks more, maybe that means doubling Yao, maybe that means not missing their first NINE threes!(!!!!!) But I still think we are a deeper and more talented team than Houston.

  81. I see alot of people mentiong Houston should not get away with Hayes playing Gasol or BYnum. Hello?!?! What do you think he is there for? He is one of the top 5 post defenders in the game. Yes. He is short, but you can not move that dude. Go back and watch the 2nd qtr when Gasol and Bynum tried to post him – they could not move him!

  82. Snoopy,
    “It’s not a perfect comparison, but in the 3-peat days, we stuck to our triangle in clutch situations (aside from Kobe). We had a system that the veteran players trusted, and we executed without hesitation. ”

    Yes – and look how difficult some of those playoff series were.

  83. 81, this is why you use the spin-move. I saw Hayes pushing on Gasol and Bynum, and it was admirable, but he had to bend over and push from his legs at a large angle, and this gives him little control over his forward movement if one of our guys leans off.

    If I were Gasol, I would push into Hayes, get him pushing back, lean off for a split second, then go into a spin-counterspin movement. Yes, Hayes did a great job not getting pushed around, but it comes with the price of losing control.

  84. Or, I would work harder to get myself in better position so I could make a quick turnaround to the jumper or hook. No way that gets contested.

  85. I feel that the comments about the Lakers giving up leads and not playing a complete game yet have been highly exaggerated. It doesn’t matter what team you’re playing, every team makes runs. Who was really surprised that Boston came back from 28 against the Magic? i think instead of criticizing the Magic for giving up the lead, people should applaud the fact that they were able to win despite Boston completely taking back the momentum.

  86. Tonight is the first “must win” game the current Laker squad has ever faced. I think that the way folks play tonight along with the outcome of the game will give us a good picture of what this team is made of – particularly for any player not named Kobe or Fisher.

    Many players on this team lived through the pain of losing to the Celtics last year. Its time to see if they can pull motivation from that experience. For others who were not there or did not contribute due to injuries, etc., well, its time see how badly they want to be in a championship team.

    I can’t wait for tonight!

  87. I feel good about tonight. The reason I believe in my heart and gut that this is a championship team is that it has consistently played its best when its best was required. Lesser Laker teams in the past (i.e. the Nick Van Exel/Ced Ceballos/Eddie Jones teams) would beat up on bad teams but fold when the going got tough. This team is different. It may play down to its competition at times, and it may lose its focus once it gets a double-digit lead too early, but when it has been smacked in the mouth it has responded. We saw this during the 6-game roadie in February where we went into Boston and Cleveland right after Bynum went down and punched them both in the mouth. We saw this in Houston in March when we beat them without Bynum *and* Odom after LO was suspended.

    If this team is the true title contender I believe they are, then they will respond appropriately tonight.

  88. funny new article on nba coaches and their lookalikes…

    almost died

    http://www.helloooooo.com/2009/05/06/nba-coaches-lookalikes-ron-jeremy-hitler/

  89. This will be a fun one. The first true test for this team this season. My guess is the players will come out energetic and trap hard and make a strong initial push, and then it’ll be up to us to maintain that momentum over 48 minutes.

  90. I like Thorpe’s point about Odom and Scola (although advocating PUJITS is a bit sketchier):

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2009/columns/story?page=ScoutingRocketsLakers2

  91. As with many of the people here, I have been in a bad mood ever since that loss. I do fully expect our main guys to come out and play the type of basketball we’re used to seeing. Crisp passing, hard screens, intensity, and smart decisions. But I am also interested in seeing in what our role players can bring. Can Vujacic stay in front of someone (after the mandatory reach foul 30 ft from the basket)? Can Ariza hit an open three? Can Farmar and Brown make good decisions, or slow down Brooks/Lowry? Can Fisher hit some shots? Draw a charge?
    And of course, Bynum is the huge X-factor who can go from looking like the best player on the planet to a Kwame Brown who takes jumpers. Clearly, the ‘just rebound and play d, and offense will come’ mantra has not gotten through to him. Neither has the pull him right after a bonehead play move. We need to try a different approach. How about passing Pau the ball instead?

  92. Lakers fans don’t worry. I predict the Lakers will will shoot 30-40 free throws to 10-20 for Houston and will win by 10+.

  93. #71 – Snoopy:

    Excellent point there, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Keep up the great analysis.

  94. Kobe named to the all defensive first team? You’ve got to be kidding! Other than the few games where he was (naturally) matched up against a superstar (Wade, etc.), his defense this year has been appalling, leaving his man wide open while roaming around the lane and accomplishing nothing other than, maybe being the first man down the court on a missed shot. How many times have we seen some marginal SG start 5-5, all wide open looks? How many times have we seen him whine about a call and never come back on defense at all, leaving trevor and fish in a 3 on 2?! I’m a huge Kobe fan, but this is something he does not deserve.

    In terms of tonight, I want so badly to agree with those who believe that we’ll see the same laker team that went into cleveland, boston, houston, and san antonio and showed who was boss, but I don’t see it happening unless they return to the triangle and try to initiate the offense through gasol against scola in the block.

    Seven hours, ten minutes. GO LAKERS.

  95. 91- wow. I’m kind of shocked. I can see Kobe making first team, but as the second most vote getter? behind Dwight? is he really the best defensive SG out there by that big a margin?

  96. Re #91 and Kobe being named first-team All-Defense…

    Scroll down that link to the other players who got votes. Ariza got 2 first place votes, Pau got 1, but get this: Fisher got 3!!! Apparently 3 coaches not on the Lakers staff (since you can’t vote for players on your own team) thought D-Fish was one of the two best defensive guards in the league. Unbelievable.

  97. Fair to say Game #2 is a must-win for the Lakers. Let’s see how the Rockets roll in a game they don’t need to win given that they’ve secured home-court advantage already!